The hearing before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) over the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company’s (GTT) landline rate increase proposal was adjourned until next year after the commission requested additional documents yesterday.
After over an hour of arguments from both sides and the Guyana Consumers Association (GCA) at the PUC Conference Room, a decision was made for GTT to provide a summary of the updated cost model and a response to a letter from the GCA. CEO of GTT Justin Nedd explained that the additional documents will be provided by December 21. The date of the next hearing was then set for January 16.
During the deliberation, Nedd had stated that regardless of what his company submitted it would never be enough for the PUC. Expounding after the meeting he said, “…Because we’ve been submitting over the years, so I just want to know what their end point is because that can help us in providing the right answers to the commission.” Nevertheless, he said he was satisfied with yesterday’s proceedings since it had left them in a “good place” and GTT has always maintained a good relationship with the PUC.
Asked what the company would do if the increase was granted, Nedd said the additional revenue would see more services, faster internet and enhanced customer care.
Nedd also stated that the company had lost over US$10 million on mechanisms which bypass the GTT network. “We have an exclusive licence to terminate international traffic to Guyana and it is not being respected. There are a lot of players terminating traffic into Guyana and we don’t get the revenue from that and that has really caused us to earn less than we have budgeted for over the years,” he said. He added that the company has complained over the years to the authorities to no avail.
Asked whether the raising of the rates would drive down the use of landlines, he said, “When you look at the economics of it you really don’t want to magnify losses by adding more customers, you want a rate that will reach a level of equilibrium where the people that need the service will afford to have it.”
The PUC had questioned why the company had thousands of applications pending, around the country, for landlines, but was not ensuring that potential customers were being served. It was also pointed out that the service current customers received was questionable and this should all be rectified by GTT.
In 2014, GTT had applied to raise the domestic rates for most of its services. The application had proposed increases for services such as installations, transfers, additional jacks, wake-up calls, three-way calling, voicemail, call forwarding and reconnection. It also sought to increase rates for intra-exchange calls during peak hours by 40% and during non-peak hours by 60%. The current intra-exchange call rate is $.60 (peak) and $.30 (non-peak). For inter-exchange calls (from one zone to another), it proposed increases by 20% for both peak and non-peak hours. The current rates for peak hours, per minute are Zone A $3, B $4, C 5$ and D $7. During non-peak hours the rates are $2, $3.6, $4.8 and $5, respectively.
The PUC had rejected the application in 2015.
However, the company decided to reopen talks on the rate increase with the commission in November, reasoning that rates had not been increased in 15 years and there was a loss of much needed revenue since persons were more reliant on their cellular phones.